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News from the College of Natural Science & Mathematics

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Higher education for physics undergraduate “paved with ice” Chemistry Professor heads to nation’s capital


Veterinary program moves ahead


Math program helps students succeed

Vol. 14 | Issue 1 | Fall/Winter 2013 Office of the Dean

358 Reichardt Building 474-7608 Paul Layer, Dean Anupma Prakash, Associate Dean and Director, Division of Research Hild Peters, Executive Officer

Atmospheric Sciences

314 IARC Building 474-7368 Uma Bhatt, Chair

Biology & Wildlife

Photo by Todd Paris


s Dean of the College of Natural Science and Mathematics, it is always exciting to see our college’s programs and facilities grow. I accompanied Chancellor Brian Rogers to Fort Collins, Colorado, home of Colorado State University (CSU), to sign a Memorandum of Agreement with their College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. This agreement formally establishes a joint professional veterinary medicine program. In this program, students will be admitted to the CSU Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program, but will do their first two years in Fairbanks in CNSM’s Department of Veterinary Medicine. The first class will be admitted in the fall of 2015, and we are already starting to bring faculty on board. It has been a long process to get to this point, and I thank everyone who has helped. I am also happy to say that CNSM faculty and students had a successful spring and summer. Last spring, we graduated 25 Ph.D. students for the second year in a row. On a personal note, I had an opportunity to participate in some short research field trips with GI Assistant Research Professor, Jeff Benowitz. We visited Denali National Park and saw preserved dinosaur footprints, and collected samples that Jeff will analyze to determine the age of the rocks that contain the tracks. I also was also a guest coach for the annual Blue-Gold inner-squad hockey game. My team, the “Blue” defeated the “Gold” team coached by Vice Chancellor Mike Sfraga in a shootout. He is already requesting a rematch.

Paul Layer Dean

To see a full list of the CNSM students who received their M.S. or Ph.D. degrees, please go to Like CNSM. Search for us on Facebook or go to our website. ii

211 Irving I Building 474-6294 Diane Wagner, Chair

Chemistry & Biochemistry 194 Reichardt Building 474-5510 Bill Simpson, Chair

Geology & Geophysics 308 Reichardt Building 474-7565 Paul McCarthy, Chair

Mathematics & Statistics 101 Chapman Building 474-7332 John Rhodes, Chair


102 Reichardt Building 474-7339 Curt Szuberla, Chair

Veterinary Medicine

358 Reichardt Building 474-1928 Arleigh Reynolds, Associate Deanr

Mission Statement

Through instruction and mentoring, the College of Natural Science and Mathematics promotes students’ self-motivation to excel and guides them towards professional careers and public service in an environment of life-long learning. Through research, the college advances knowledge of natural, physical, technological and numerical systems from a northern perspective. Instruction, mentoring, research and outreach are brought together within undergraduate, graduate and continuing education programs to benefit Alaska, the nation and the world.


Donors and Industry Partnerships We’d like to thank donors and industry partners of the College of Natural Science and

Mathematics. Through contributions or hands-on involvement, they have joined with the college to support our commitment to academic excellence, research and service. We hold these relationships with donors and industry partners in high regard. They lend strength to the college and support our mission to produce outstanding graduates and a well-qualified workforce.

We wish to thank the following: BUSINESSES/CORPORATIONS

Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Agency of Alaska, Inc. BP Foundation, Inc. ConocoPhillips Alaska, Inc. Eli Lilly and Company Foundation ExxonMobil Corporation Fairbanks Memorial Hospital Granite Construction Company Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC New York Life Insurance Olgoonik Development, LLC Panco, Inc. Rasmuson Foundation Shell Exploration & Production Company Statoil Teck Limited The Williams Foundation Usibelli Foundation


Mary Albanese Ronald Anderson Martha Arce Robert and Marilyn Benson Peter Bente Brandi and Gary Berg Larry and Paticia Bidlake Mary Binkley Richard and Mary Bishop Cindy and Joel Blum Paul Bowen Joan and Doug Braddock James and Danielle Britt Sue Broadston Roderick Brown Cathy Cahill and Gregory Walker Peter Catterall and Kimberly Toskey Amy and Michael Chadwick Terry and Mimi Chapin Megan Damario Dwain and Joan Davies Cathy and Richard Davis Ed and Jackie Debevec Lisa Felix John and Martha Gilmore Gary and Sara Gislason Barbara Gorman Flora Grabowska

Fan and Ronald Graham Don and Carolyn Gray Erik Hansen and Christine DiCurti Leone Hatch and Eric Johansen Eric Hoberg Mo and Dennis Holden Dorothy Hudson Mary Jacobson Susan Kaplan Cal and Barbara Klein Judith and George Knuth Ron Kotay Barbara Lachenbruch George Laufenberg Gary and Beth Laursen Brian and Donita Lawhead Jason and Becky Lindsey Sharon Lockwood Roy Loewenstein and Alana Stubbs Ricardo Lopez Dorothy Lucas Ling-Hsiao Lyu Niki McCurry Brian McKenna Loyola McManus Randy and Jim Meyers Cathy and Bob Miller Laura and Reed Morisky

Montana Napier Agnes Niemi Kathleen O’Hare-Stewart Susan Oehlers Lee and Linda Payne Shelley Penner Herta and Anton Prechtel Grace Prorok Juan and Beatriz Roederer Kaitlin Sandoval Angelica Sarchett Kenneth Sassen Leilani Sauer Brad Shults and Janet Warburton Elena and Stephen Sparrow Aporn Stein Becky Stemper and Robert Alexander Ron and Mary Kay Teel Evelyn Tunuchuk Guy Urban and Margot Jereza Andy West Ken Whitten and Mary Ruth Zalar Lorraine Wolf Ed Workman Jane and Peter Young Jerry and Barbara Zelenka

Thank you!

The College of Natural Science and Mathematics welcomes contributions and community support. Go to and click on “Giving” to make your secure

contribution. For information, contact Executive Officer Hild Peters at 907-474-7941 or

Teaching Excellence Spring 2013 Mathematics & Statistics: Ron Barry, Leah Berman, Jill Faudree, Julie McIntyre, Kat Sorensen Geology & Geophysics: Doug Christensen, Sarah Fowell, Jessica Larsen, Franz Meyer, Jochen Mezger, Rainer Newberry, Vladimir Romanovsky Physics: Mark Conde Biology & Wildlife: Laura Conner, Mike Harris, Karsten Hueffer, Andrej Podlutsky Chemistry & Biochemistry: Tom Green, Bill Howard, Tom Kuhn, Bill Simpson, Tom Trainor

Thank you to all those who made the 2013 Alaska Interior Medical Education Summit AIMES a success! More than 200 students explored careers in the health and vetmed industries.


right  Danielle works to extract the plesiosaur from the rock. below  Danielle shows off the plesiosaur’s toothy “grin.”

Photo by Todd Paris

CNSM Undergraduate Stanley Edwin proves that a person’s heart is just as important as the mind in getting a degree By Leona Long

Marketing Coordinator for the Interior Aluetians Campus


tanley Edwin’s path to higher education has been paved with ice. His first winters as a University of Alaska Fairbanks student began at 6 a.m. with a three-mile walk in bone-chilling cold, usually dipping down to 50 below, to the university’s center in Fort Yukon. His evening classes ended around 9 or 10 p.m. with another three-mile trek home. By the light of a kerosene lamp, Edwin built a fire to take the edge off the bitter cold and thaw enough water for a late-night meal of tea and soup. This routine would continue for several winters until he earned two associate’s of applied science degrees. During these frigid journeys, Edwin began to ponder more complicated questions than his childhood curiosities like why the compass from the Cracker Jacks box always pointed north. “I always question and seek answers, strive to understand why and how things work the way they do,” says Edwin. “I would ask my father, the Chief of the Dranjik Gwich’in, when I was very young, why does the sun and moon rise from across the river and sit behind the hill by the graveyard? Why do the wolves upriver howl in the evening?!” 2

About 15 years ago, when Jennifer Carroll, who was working as UAF’s Interior-Aleutians Campus’s Fort Yukon Center coordinator while completing her doctorate degree, recruited Edwin into the Construction Trades Technology (CTT) program. It was an opportunity for Edwin to earn academic credit for his carpentry skill and mentor other students, especially in the “scary” subject of mathematics. “Stan is a fabulous student who helped not only CTT students, but also other rural Alaska Native students at the center pass their mathematics classes,” says Carroll, now interim associate dean for the College of Rural and Community Development. “Stan is a role model to other students. He is an example to others of ways of blending high-level academics with a traditional outlook and lifestyle. Edwin shows them how to navigate the path between Western science and traditional knowledge.” Later, Carroll recruited Edwin into the Gaalee’ya STEM project. This program guides rural Alaska Native students from the Interior-Aleutians and Chukchi Campus regions through a rigorous and culturally relevant STEM (Science, Technology, UAF COLLEGE OF NATURAL SCIENCE & MATHEMATICS

Engineering and Mathematics) associate’s degree program lessons of my father and elders in my work as a scientist.” that also incorporates traditional values and perspectives and Edwin would like to get an advanced degree and teach local interests in ecosystem changes with scientific coursework, college level classes in rural Alaska. He said it’s important research, and analysis from a Western academic perspective. to engage youth in the sciences. Just like engineering and Now in his final semester at UAF in the CNSM Department atmospheric science, it turns out making video games of Physics, the undergraduate student is blending his traditional involves physics, too. “I always tell kids – don’t just play knowledge with his university education to answer the questions video games, learn how to create them,” says Edwin. that puzzled him as a child. He recently won an outstanding As a member of UAF’s Society of Physics Students, student presentation award at the Society for Advancing one of Edwin’s favorite activities is judging the Fairbanks Chicano and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) 2013 School District Science Fairs and performing physics conference. demonstrations for elementary school students. Edwin was one of 723 undergraduates from across the nation “My own curiosity is always reinforced by the who presented posters on their research in the fields of science, children’s inquisitiveness hunger. They want to know how technology, engineering and mathematics. The research was a demonstration works, ” says Edwin. conducted during a summer program “This reminds me of my called Significant Opportunities in childhood when I wanted to know Atmospheric Research (SOARS), which more than what people could sponsored him to attend the conference. explain. My father’s experiences Students are mentored and assist and knowledge were limited to atmospheric scientists in their research. living and surviving in the Boreal “Stan cares very much about forest of Interior Alaska, he could his Alaska Native heritage and not satisfy his son’s quest for protecting native lands and always knowledge of why and how.” shares his cultural experiences Edwin is an Interior Alaskan, with others,” says Laura Allen, Dranjik Gwich’in from Chalkyitsik, Stanley Edwin at the 2013 SACNAS SOARS program coordinator. a small village in the Northern conference. Photo courtesy of Edwin.. “His unique perspective has been region of the Yukon Flats. His invaluable to the other SOARS parents are Bessie Elisabeth participants, researchers, and staff Biederman and Paul Ben “In traditional ways of knowing, during his three years with the Thomas. He will graduate with we don’t break things down and program.” Edwin says he loves physics, a bachelor’s degree in applied categorize them. We see the which he calls “the study of nature.” physics with a concentration interconnection of things and The physicist says that his Native in computational physics in heritage gives him a different, more December 2013 and is waiting to how things affect each other.” comprehensive perspective of science - Stanley Edwin hear back from graduate schools. than what is usually taught in university “My goal is to earn a doctorate classrooms. degree,” says Edwin “Then I plan to return to Alaska to build “In traditional ways of knowing, we don’t break things instruments that will be carried on UAF’s rockets. I also want down and categorize them. We see the interconnection of to study the Northern upper atmosphere from the data these things and how things affect each other” explains Edwin. “At instruments measure-- the air and sky that the Gwich’in, universities, disciplines like physics, mathematics and biology animals, and all Alaskans breathe. I want to show by are separated. In the Alaska Native way of knowing, nothing example and demonstrating physics for children and stands alone. There is no single discipline. I integrate the teaching college that any Gwich’in can do as I did.”

Student Travel Grant Awards: Benjamin Abbott Katherine Anderson Soumik Basu Simon Filhol Erin Gleason

Joshua Miller

Summer Miller Jordan Metzgar Courtney Nichols Theresia Schnurr Danielle Serratos Annalisa Stephens

American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA Society of Vertebrate Paleontology 73rd Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, CA American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA International Snow Science Workshop 2013, Grenoble, France American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA

Geothermal Resources Council Convention, Las Vegas, NV

International Volcanological Field School, Kamchatka, Russia Fieldwork in southwestern China, (Yunnan & Sichuan provinces) 2014 International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Conference, Anchorage, AK XII International Symposium on Insulin Receptors and Insulin Action, Barcelona, Spain Society of Vertebrate Paleontology 73rd Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, CA Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research Conference, Bergun, Switzerland


CNSM Professor heads to new office on Capitol Hill A University of Alaska Fairbanks professor will leave the “Golden Heart City” for the heart of the nation to become a Fellow for the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Starting in January, Chemistry Professor and Geophysical Institute Researcher Catherine Cahill will spend a year learning about public policy in Congress while contributing her scientific expertise to a broad range of energy and natural resource issues. “This will give me a completely new perspective on how the science we do gets implemented into policy,” she said. The committee has jurisdiction over energy production and related policies, mining, and management of federal lands, including national parks and refuges. Alaska’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski is the committee’s ranking Republican member. UAF Vice Chancellor of Research Mark Myers said he recommended Cahill because her research and teaching are arenas where her technical knowledge, communication skills and personal integrity shine. Cahill researches atmospheric aerosols, which are solid or liquid particles that stay suspended in air. Although she said a car driving off a cliff could be considered an aerosol, most are microscopic and can be natural like volcanic ash or man-made like the emissions from coal fire-powered plants.

Photo of Catherine Cahill by Todd Paris.

“We care because we can breathe them in; they cause health effects and visual degradation; they play a role in climate, and they can transport thousands of miles from their origin,” she said. A physicist by training, Cahill’s life-long research on aerosols dovetails with atmospheric science, chemistry, biology, geology and nuclear physics. Much of her reserach looks at the relationship between aerosols and the arctic climate. She often partners with federal agencies like the National Park Service or the U.S. military to investigate aerosols and their impacts. She is working with the U.S. Army Research Lab to evaluate air pollution in places like Afghanistan and Iraq where Americans are stationed. Paul Layer, the Dean of the College of Natural Science and Mathematics said, “Cathy can make sense of science in almost any context whether it’s in the classroom, with her colleagues, at a public lecture or in a room full of legislators,” he said. “She really has a gift, and she’ll be putting it to good use.” Cahill will now travel more than 4000 miles southeast to the nation’s hub, after which she will take a sabbatical and then return to UAF. She’s packing her bags and preparing her six-toed cat, “Bigfoot” for the big move.

Efficiency lies in simplification: views and news from CNSM Division of Research By Anupma Prakash Fiscal year 2013 (FY13) has been particularly exciting for CDR as we moved from a completely manual to a largely automated process of grant management. Our fiscal officer, Matt Seymour, brought in new skills and creativity in extracting just the right bits of information from what some of us call the monster ‘banner’ database. Thanks for the flurry of compliments – it assures us that you like this step-forward as much as we do. Keep sending us your feedback so that we can further simplify our processes and serve you better. After all, efficiency lies in simplification. It’s also a pleasure to congratulate all our faculty


members who worked hard to submit proposals and bring in external funds to support research, teaching, and creative activities. In FY13, CDR faculty were awarded 23 new grants that brought in over $1.9M, of which over $1.6M was competitive funding from federal and state agencies. Internal grants were from UA Foundation, Alaska Space Grant Program, and NIH-INBRE. We hope to see continued and enhanced activities in proposal submission. Though we’ve streamlined the processes, you still need to do the hard work. Our staff is committed to help you succeed. Also, keep checking our website for frequent updates:


UAF vet program takes giant leap forward Two signatures and a handshake on Dec. 19 helped CNSM’s Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Alaska Fairbanks take a major leap forward. UAF’s Chancellor Brian Rogers signed a memorandum of understanding with Colorado State University President Tony Frank that serves as a written agreement that the two universities will collaborate on a veterinary program where students learn on both campuses. The joint effort will allow UAF to develop the first professional veterinary medical program in Alaska while pooling resources with one of the top ranked veterinary schools in the nation. Students will complete up to two years at UAF and then finish at CSU. The program gives preference to qualified Alaskan students. Students admitted into the program will

receive their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from CSU, but the majority of their tuition while they study at UAF will come back to the Alaskan University. The Dean of CNSM, Paul Layer, said the program’s doors will open for enrolled students in the fall of 2015. In the picture below, CSU president Tony Frank shakes hands with UAF’s Chancellor Brian Rogers after signing the MoU. Photo courtesy of CSU..

Program bridges students to math By Katie Harrison, Math Bridge Assistant Every UAF student who earns a Bachelor of Arts must pass Pre-Calculus and every student who earns a Bachelor of Science must pass Calculus. These are two of the most difficult math courses for students. On average, 48% of students fail their Pre-Calculus course and 45% fail their Calculus course every semester. The core math fail rates of UAF undergrads are thwarting their chances of success. The Math Bridge Program started in the fall of 2010 as a way to increase student success in the core math courses, Pre-Calculus and Calculus. The program, now in its third year, takes a two-pronged approach to increasing pass rates. Step 1: Online tutorial the semester before The Pre-Semester Preparation (PSP) program, takes place before the semester begins and prepares students for their upcoming math course by reviewing concepts that should be grasped prior to enrollment. Most students join the PSP because they’ve just barely passed their preceding course or they’ve been out of school for a while and would like to brush up on their math skills. The heart of the PSP is the pre-semester online tutorial

Photos from the field: To learn more about the photos taken last summer, go to www. Photos courtesy of the different programs.



Field Cam

program, specifically tailored by UAF math professors to cover exactly the material necessary to succeed in the Pre-Calculus and Calculus courses. Students complete the online curriculum at home and by the time the semester begins they are ready to jump into their math course. To ensure a smooth transition into their course, the student meets with a Math Bridge advisor early in the semester to ramp-up for the months ahead. These advisors continue to check in with students throughout the semester and provide additional support as needed. 2: Study Sessions during the semester The Peer Assisted Study Session (PASS) program, takes place during the semester and offers students frequent, informal study sessions led by an embedded tutor, called a PASS leader. Available in selected Pre-Calculus sections, a PASS leader sits in on lectures and then bases his/her study sessions on the instructor’s specific approach to the material. PASS sessions are open to all students enrolled in the selected sections and it’s been shown that students who participate in PASS usually earn .5 grade points more than those who do not. Learn more at

GeFORCE Alaska

Alaska Summer Research Academy



College of Natural Science and Mathematics University of Alaska Fairbanks P.O. Box 755940 Fairbanks, AK 99775-5940

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front cover   Physics undergraduate students Stanley Edwin and Haley Nelson examine a physics instrument that produces a miniature aurora. Photo by Todd Paris. UAF is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and educational institution.

Happy New Year from CNSM

Photo by geology graduate student Colby Wright Colby captured the aurora near the Brooks Range on an annual fall trip up the Dalton Highway that the Department of Geology and Geophysics hosts for its graduate students.

The Reichardt Building basks in the fall sun. Photo by Mist D’June-Gussak.

News from the College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics